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Dispatch

AD27: African publics back rights, responsibilities of media watchdogs

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Key findings
  • Six in 10 respondents (62%) access news media daily. Radio remains the leading source of news but is declining in importance as television and the Internet build their audiences.
  • Africans also support an active “watchdog” role for the press: On average, 69% believe that the media should exercise this role.
  • More than one-third (36%) of respondents say the media “often” or “always” publishes things it knows are not true. In some countries, this perception is shared by large majorities of citizens.

Journalists have little doubt that a free and effective news media is a cornerstone of democracy and development. But do their customers – everyday citizens and consumers of news – agree with them, and thus help provide the backing that journalists need to gain or maintain their independence?

World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3 each year, offers an opportunity to assess the state of press freedom worldwide, as well as a chance for media professionals to reflect on issues of media independence and professional ethics. In observance of World Press Freedom Day 2015, Afrobarometer highlights everyday Africans’ news habits and attitudes regarding media freedom, media trustworthiness, and the effectiveness of the media in holding governments accountable.

Afrobarometer survey results representing more than three-fourths of the continent’s population show that Africans express support for an independent media and expect the press to play an active watchdog role by monitoring their governments and reporting on poor performance and corruption. On average, they believe that the media is doing a good job in filling these roles.

Thomas Bentley

Thomas Bentley is a research assistant for Afrobarometer and a PhD student in the<br /> Department of Political Science at Michigan State University.

Kangwook Han

Kangwook Han is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Jeonbuk National University, South Korea.

Mina Okuru

Mina Okuru is Afrobarometer communications coordinator for Anglophone West Africa,<br /> based at the Center for Democratic Development in Ghana.